Photography: A Lotta Night-Shots – Part 2
Shooting in the dark is dark! I have to wave around my iPod Touch everywhere…
So, today, I went out and bought some Brinkmann Headlamps. I found a 2 pack online, for $10, and picked them up at The Home Depot. I really like them, so far! Next, I just need a macro lens…
Tonight, I started with our yard snails:
I love snails! (Yes, I don’t keep a garden.)
I’ve been learning that they’re the coolest little people…
This species of snail is called Helix Aspersa, or “garden snail”.
The headlamps can switch between white and red light! Therefore, they didn’t spend much time on my head, and ended up lighting the snails.
I’ve observed that, quite unsurprisingly, people will attempt more, and reach for better, when they have better tools. See, I was planning to go out and use my iPod Touch for colored light, but it’s so dim, it only works on things that don’t move. (The camera’s exposure-time for each pic has to be very long, so, any movement results in a streak of blur.) So, I would have given up on trying to add any color to the snail shots, and just used white light + Photoshop. But, since I had the option of RED, I used it… and was very happy to.
The cutest thing… a little snail nom.
“For me? Oh, you’re too kind…”
That evening, while I was gearing up, a neighbor dropped by to visit my mom. She commented on all my lights, and pulled out this little LED one above, which has a pen-like base, a bendable neck, and a laser pointer. I mentioned I was in the market for small lights, and asked if I could take it for a spin, to see if I wanted to order one for myself, on Amazon.
It’s really nice, and can clip onto your clothes. However, for shooting small things at night, you only need it for SOME shots, so, it would probably be better to keep it clipped to your side, for when you need it. Before settling on this, though, I’m going to try and see if I can find a similar light that can take a rechargeable AAA battery (easier to manage), and hopefully have a few photography-centric features.
The light is nice for hitting just the exact spot you want, like the snails’ eyes.
I love these headlamps, too. So much. The light can be tilted down, at any angle…
I think this shot is just using the headlamps, with the white one held above and behind.
I realized my breath was making fog, so, I tried huffing into some of the shots.
(More tools = reaching for better.)
And look at this arch that snails make. I didn’t know about this.
(Argh, my Lumix GH1 can’t handle low-light video, without terrible grain. I think this is ISO 1600, at which the image gets muddy.)
This guy also showed up for the shoot:
By the way, I had some water out there, which accidentally got in the way of my camera. It may be hard to tell, but it’s half full. (or is it half empty? Hey, hey!)
We were out of milk, so, I went inside and got some Egg Nog, and did what photographers do.
After that, I took a stroll around the yard, just to think about what else I could shoot before getting to the grass and tangerine shots that I wanted to finish.
…and, somehow, this happened:
Look at that thing!
Up until now, my life had been depraved of amazing bugs. I’d never seen anything like this in my life, at least in person… (not counting in cages. Well, okay, I don’t think of scorpions as bugs, and crane flies are considered scary, not amazing.)
I swear that it seems like all these fortunate coincidences happen almost every time I shoot… or at least a very, very decent number of times.
While I was trying to think of a shot, I literally almost walked over this guy, just sitting there, right in front of the garage. I ran inside to get a see-through cup, then came out and trapped it underneath… not that this lazy thing was in a hurry to go anywhere. After that, I could barely get it to turn around, by pressing the cup against it on all sides.
So, I setup shop next to it, throwing down a towel to lay on. Before I had a chance to pull out my iPod, and look up what type of bug it was, some of Vincent’s friends arrived, parking right next to me… and one of them told me what it was. A Jerusalem Cricket. (I really needed that tip… Imagine, I would have been doing net searches for “halp, giant orange cricket that doesn’t want to move”.)
After they left, I laid on my back, and looked up details about it. Apparently, Jerusalem Crickets are also known in California as Potato Bugs. Unfortunately, however, they are neither crickets, nor do they prioritize potatoes, nor are they from Jerusalem.
I think the reason he was just sitting there was because he was confused, trying to figure out who he was.
95% of my time shooting the cricket was spent trying to get it him to face the right direction, and not press himself against the glass.
Still, look at that thing!
Shortly after releasing the cricket, I somehow got caught up with snails again, and my battery died. (I need to order a spare. So far, every single night has ended with my battery dying.)
Snails are just too much fun, and there are 10 million ways you can shoot them.
But, first, a note on slugs:
(This shot is all you’re getting, because I quickly went back to snails.)
1 – Slugs are either faster than snails, or just always in a hurry to get somewhere.
2 – They’re impossible to pick up, when you want to put them back where you’re trying to shoot them.
(There’s a special technique for rolling them upside-down, and getting their bottom-side to stick to your finger, but then they get dirt all over them.)
After a minute of shooting the above slug, I just let it scoot away, while the snails calmly waited their turn…
I huffed some breath into this one…
(The streaks coming off the eyes are real, but they look fake. Funny as it sounds, I should fake them, so they look real…)
I also swear that snails are blind… because they can’t see my finger right in front of their faces, so, they scoot forward, and bump their eyes into it.
This snail checks out another snail’s license plate…
Snails are cool. I often find them just sitting and relaxing, with their eyes and bodies only partially extended. When they do that, they look like they’re sitting in little recliners.
(This isn’t the best shot to see the recliners thing, but hey… shut up.)
“Reaching” is a snail’s maximum feat, so, it’s one of things you want to shoot. I still want to try to get a snail reaching over from one leaf to another, but I don’t think they can see.
Tonight, I was also supposed to try to finish some of my shots from the previous nights. That was the plan, but, right in the middle of shooting the snails, the heavens sent a sea of FOG. >:(
HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FINISH MY STUFF WHEN PHOTOGRAPHIC PARADISE DESCENDS AROUND ME???
Needless to say, the instant I realized the fog was getting thick, I stopped what I was doing, and took off to get my floodlight.
In euphoria. >:(
I started with the persimmon tree, in the backyard. I stood up a ladder, and clipped my floodlight onto it.
Same branch, different angle.
(By the way, I’ll post everything in order. I don’t usually post the photos in EXACT shot-to-shot order, but I do go in sequence of what I was shooting… so, like: snails >> cup >> cricket.)
Floodlight over Lake Grass.
Under the persimmon tree.
In case you’d wonder, I haven’t color-corrected these. The strong orange comes from the camera’s White Balance setting, and the floodlight is somewhat orange.
I liked all these weird little spider webs. Made me wonder what the spider’s idea here was. (Or maybe he’s just an artist.)
This is still right under the persimmon tree. For some reason, our back yard is divided from the rest of the property by this fence. It’s like its own little enclosure, perfect for keeping all the animals we don’t keep.
The persimmons look a little TOO ripe.
(This is a persimmon. They’re my mom’s favorite fruit.)
Our Deodar tree.
(I like that name they chose… “Deodar”. It’s almost as good as if they called it the Dario tree.)
Our backyard provides lots of entertainment. At times, it seems like it’s the central nexus of all the local wildlife. Depending on the time of year, we have occasional sightings of the following:
- (currently) A family of squirrels AND a family of rabbits. They both live in a woodpile by our shed (just to the camera’s right), and always go out and nom together. They’re out every day.
- The crows drop in daily, and compete with the squirrels/rabbits over backyard foraging territory. Every day, in late afternoon, the squirrels and crows take turns trying to intimidate each other, till one side backs off (usually the squirrels). The crows also get pecans from our giant pecan tree, and drop them onto our roof, or onto the street, trying break them open. They also just take nuts onto the roof, and pound them with their beaks, to get them open. (When they do that, we say the crows have opened up their workshop. It sounds like people knocking on our roof.)
- All manner of birds come and eat the persimmons every day, and fruits off various trees. (We don’t need all of it, so, we can share…)
- Gophers are the actual property owners. We need to get a cat.
- Occasional raccoons and opossums pass through, between their weekly ‘Night On The Trash’. The raccoons regularly clunk around on our roof.
- In the summer, scary orb weaver spiders build large, circular, perfectly architected webs between trees. Half the year, everyone in California walks with their arm extended forward, to absorb any webs. (Strangers may laugh, but we let them absorb the webs with their face.)
- Red-Tailed Hawks sit daily in the Deodar tree.
- Sometimes, at night, we also see (or hear) Great Horned Owls and Barn Owls.
- The local coyotes regularly start up a chorus of howling and barking excitedly, I think every time they catch a rabbit.
Right now is fall, so, the green half of the year is booting up. Seeing as all our landscaping money (and energy) is diverted into computers, we let our yards come and go with nature. (That means we don’t take care of it.) Half the year it’s gorgeous and natural-looking, and half the year it looks like a brown wasteland.
Our next-door neighbors have the nature thing even better. They put out a ton of bird-houses, so, in the spring, all you hear is hundred birds out there, all arguing over property lines.
A 2007 shot of one of our yard rabbits, named Greg:
This was the first thing I shot when getting out of my car, on the way home from buying my $800 18-200 Nikon lens. He was just waiting for me there, by the driveway, in perfectly challenging low-light (so I could try out the lens stabilization I had just gotten). Perfect.
(I brightened the pic in Photoshop.)
Back to night-shooting:
This is Vincent’s room. I took this while he was practicing with a music-making program, Ableton. He said of this shot, “My music is so loud, you can see it coming out my window.”
Here’s Mom. While I was trying to get this tree right, she came out to bring me a burrito and warm milk with honey.
This is me, while I was showing Mom some stuff. This came out looking more like Mr. Macho, but I’m trying to do a monkey pose. Apparently, this is what monkeys do. One arm to pick my fleas, the other arm to scratch my… Onward!
My headlamp… It makes night-shooting so much easier.
The fog made the fence wet and shiny. There’s an idea for anyone shooting stuff even in a regular environment: get something wet, to bring out these highlights.